Courts are on the front line of the growing numbers of self-represented civil and family court litigants. Difficulties navigating the process, problems completing and filing forms, and challenges navigating hearings and trial all impact court staff and judges in terms of time, efficiency, and—in some instances—case outcome. Court systems stand to benefit greatly from an increase in attorney participation in appropriate cases, and there are things judicial system stakeholders can do to support the unbundled practice model:
- Familiarize judges and court staff with the unbundled model.
- For example, see the Illinois Judicial Branch Bench Card on unbundling.
- Educate litigants about the unbundled model, including how to access these services and how to assess whether these services are appropriate given a client’s particular needs and situation.
- See IAALS' Guide for Consumers as an example handout for self-represented litigants who seek legal assistance at self-help centers in court.
- Engage court leadership in encouraging rulemakers to support the unbundled model and encouraging area attorneys to adopt the model. This might take the form of process and procedure modifications that can facilitate client representation through an unbundled model. Informal and expedited domestic relations trials, for example, provide an opportunity for limited scope attorney engagement, while also expediting divorce case processing and freeing judicial time for high-conflict or high-touch cases.
- Provide legal practitioners with guidance on key issues related to offering unbundled trial services, perhaps making available standard, court-approved forms for entry of limited appearance, withdrawal from representation, etc.
- For example, Illinois has several sample forms available, including a Notice of Limited Scope Appearance and a Limited Scope Representation Agreement.
- Promote programs that bring unbundled legal services into the courthouse, whether as part of legal aid efforts or partnerships with the private bar.
- For examples, see Kansas Legal Services and Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) in Illinois.
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